Bella Coola women’s team wore shirts in support of the Wet’suwet’en who are protesting the Coastal GasLink pipeline. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Wet’suwet’en Strong shirts dominate All Native Tournament

Committee vice-president says the basketball tournament in Prince Rupert shouldn’t be about politics

The 60th All Native Basketball Tournament opening ceremonies wasn’t without controversy.

Entire teams dressed in T-shirts with “Wet’suwet’en Strong” printed on the front and “Unceded” on the back. Some players held signs reading “We stand with Wet’suwet’en” as they paraded through the court.

Escalating opposition to the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory lead to RCMP arrests and rallies across the country. Fourteen people were arrested on Jan. 7 after attempting to block a forest service road needed by Coastal GasLink workers in the pre-construction process.

The 670-kilometre pipeline is intended to move natural gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, where the LNG Canada facility is being built.

On Feb. 10, more than 50 Indigenous teams from across B.C., to Hydaburg, Alaska, travelled to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament. More than 100 Lax Kw’alaams members opened the ceremonies. Dancers wore carved cedar masks, button blankets, tunics and dresses. They played drums, blew into conch shells, and used mussel shells as rattlers.

READ/WATCH MORE: Lax Kw’alaams prepare to lead All Native opening ceremonies

As Lax Kw’alaams continued to sing, the teams walked in one by one, many wearing the same T-shirt in support of the We’suwet’en protest. Once all the teams filed in the organizers, Indigenous leaders and politicians took their turn to speak in the centre of the court.

First up was Eva Spencer, the vice chairman of the All Native Tournament committee.

“I feel sad for the players right now because right now you’re not focused,” Spencer said. “Don’t bring politics into this.”

In 2017, the committee banned all anti-LNG statements, either on T-shirts or banners, from the tournament. The previous year, players wore blue “No LNG” T-Shirts as they walked into the court for the opening ceremonies. Players, coaches and managers wearing any anti-LNG or political statements were asked to either remove the items or remove themselves from the tournament.

Despite the ban, some players and supporters stood outside the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre and handed out pink “No LNG” T-shirts.

Following Spencer’s speech, Murray Smith, Algmxaa, one of the house leaders in the Gitwilgyoots Tribe, took centre stage with Chief Yahaan, Donald Wesley, who was the leader in the protest and court battle against Pacifc Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island.

Smith applauded the players who were making a political statement with the signs and the banners. At the end of his speech he said: “We are on unceded territory as well. I love seeing that on your T-shirts as well, unceded. Don’t forget, you are in control.” Behind him, Lax Kw’alaams members beat their drums and spectators cheered.

Teams left the court singing the Friendship Song with Lax Kw’alaams performers.

The tournament will be held in Prince Rupert from Feb. 10 until Feb. 16.

READ MORE: B.C. government, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs announce reconciliation process

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

 

Eva Spencer, vice chairman of the All Native Basketball Tournament, tells the players at the opening ceremonies that the tournament shouldn’t be about politics. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

In the first publication of this story “Wet’suwet’en Strong shirts dominate All Native Tournament opening ceremonies” we wrote in error that it was Eva Clayton who spoke first as the vice chairman of the All Native Tournament committee. We apologize for this error to any one this may have offended, as it was Eva Spencer. This has since been corrected in both print and online editions.

Just Posted

School district facing capacity challenges

Rising enrolment, outdated data and classroom changes prompt discussions

Seatbelts on school buses would come with safety, cost concerns

Retrofitting belts would cost approximately $240,000 for 24 buses

Highway 1 intersection top of Tank Hill tallies most crashes

ICBC data shows Salmon Arm motor-vehicle collisions from 2013 to 2017

Readers weigh in: Should shock collars on dogs be banned?

We asked and you had a lot to say. Here’s some of what

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death has not been released

UPDATE: Highway 97A near Armstrong opened following serious crash

Three in hospital, one in critical condition from Friday morning accident

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Kelowna subdivision slope erosion fuels landslide fears

City says up to $1.2 million in slope remedial work is required this spring

Senior Golds enter Okanagan Valley Championships as top-ranked team

Salmon Arm basketball team heads straight to semifinals after stellar season

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Parole angers parents of Okanagan manslaughter victim

Tal Kalum LaRiviere was arrested in Alberta Feb. 18. He had previously been granted day parole

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Most Read